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According to this article, Russia reduced the punishment for some forms of domestic violence at the beginning of 2017:

Russian MPs have backed a controversial bill reducing the punishment for some forms of domestic violence in a crucial second reading, despite protests from rights groups.

The amendments reduce the penalty for violence against family members, including spouses and children, as long as it is a first offence and does not cause serious injury, making it punishable by a fine of up to 30,000 rubles (£400).

Law initiators justify this change in order to obtain a legal consistency:

The bill’s authors say the new measure removes a legal anomaly and will reduce domestic violence by giving first-time abusers a chance to reform.

Although this argument might make sense from a technical (legal) point of view, this change might lead to a trivialization of domestic violence.

Question: How did the Russian politicians who backed this law justify the reduced punishment for some forms of domestic violence?

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    I'm not clear what you are asking. If you want the public justification it is "The bill’s authors say the new measure removes a legal anomaly and will reduce domestic violence by giving first-time abusers a chance to reform." If you want the private motivations - that is unknown (and off topic). If you just want some discussion of the state of domestic violence legistlation in Russia, that is also off topic. – James K Nov 1 '17 at 20:06
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    @JamesK - I am interested in a larger list of reasons, if this exist. AFAIK, in Russia the Church and traditional values are still very powerful, which also imply not to intrude into "traditional family" and I sense this might be an underlying cause. – Alexei Nov 2 '17 at 5:03
  • The Guardian article has a direct quote from the author of domestic violence amendments Yelena Mizulina. Isn't that enough? – default locale Nov 7 '17 at 19:34
  • @defaultlocale - yes, I think I covered that with "legal consistency". However I interpret it like the following: if some offence is punished quite mildly in a context, let's punish it mildly in other contexts as well. This is quite strange when in the same time, EU is trying to fight against violence against women. – Alexei Nov 7 '17 at 19:46
  • @Alexei quite strange for you, maybe, but not for Mizulina, because she has repeatedly used "the battery is a battery is a battery" justification. – default locale Nov 7 '17 at 19:50
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TL;DR

In 2016 Russian Parliament decriminalized first-time offenses for battery, in an attempt to reduce the total number of imprisonments. The new version of the corresponding article in the Criminal Code included a provision that the battery against a family member would still be a criminal offense. Russian Orthodox Church criticized the provision as the Government's overreach into parenting. Religious groups protested the amendment. As a result, in 2017 the Parliament voted to remove a family member provision, thus, decriminalizing the battery for first-time offenders.

How did the Russian politicians who backed this law justify the reduced punishment for some forms of domestic violence?

The Guardian article already provides a direct quote from one of the sponsors of the bill (Yelena Mizulina).

If you slap your naughty child, you risk up to two years in jail. If your neighbor does the same, it would end with a fine.

Senator Mizulina was one of the cosigners of the amendment, so this is the actual firsthand justification from the backer of the bill.

I'll try to provide the legal context for this particular amendment.

Legislative History

In 2015 the Supreme Court of Russia introduced a bill #953369-6 with multiple amendments to the Criminal Code. Namely, bill decriminalizes first-time offenses for the following types of crime:

  1. Non-aggravated battery.
  2. The threat of murder or serious bodily harm.
  3. Evasion of child support payment
  4. Use of forged documents.

Supreme Court suggested moving the corresponding articles from the Criminal Code to the Code on Administrative Offenses. Administrative Offenses usually presume a lighter punishment (fines) and simplified legal proceedings.

In the explanatory note bill authors explain that the main goal of amendments is to humanize Russian criminal law and to reduce the number of criminal sentences:

В последние годы на фоне постоянного снижения количества уголовных дел, поступающих на рассмотрение в суды, и сокращения общего числа лиц, осуждаемых за совершение преступлений, имеет место увеличение в общей структуре судимости доли лиц, осужденных за совершение преступлений небольшой тяжести.

... В случае реализации положений данной части законопроекта из-под действия уголовного закона может быть выведено около 200 тысяч лиц.

In recent years, with the constant reduction in the number of criminal cases and a reduction in the total number of persons convicted of crimes, there is a significant increase in the proportion of persons convicted for minor offenses.

... implementation of the provisions of the bill would result in around 200,000 persons being removed from the scope of the criminal justice system every year.

The initial version of the bill decriminalized the non-aggravated battery entirely, but the bill was amended during the hearing in State Duma to include a provision that the first-time battery against the family member would still be criminalized.

In July 2016 the billed passed the parliament and was signed into law by President Putin.

Church disapproval

Russian Orthodox Church interpreted the "close relatives" amendment as the example of the government's overreach into family matters. ROC issued a statement criticizing the law as lacking "moral and legal ground". The statement also includes the "neighbour slap" justification later repeated by Mizulina:

Если новая редакция статьи 116 Уголовного кодекса вступит в силу, это может привести к уголовному преследованию добросовестных родителей (с наложением наказания до двух лет лишения свободы) за любое, даже умеренное и разумное использование физических наказаний в воспитании детей. При этом, как следует из текста закона, посторонние люди за такие же действия в отношении ребенка уголовной ответственности нести не будут.

If the new version of article 116 of the Criminal Code is enacted, this may lead to criminal prosecution of conscientious parents (with the punishment up to two years of imprisonment) for any, even moderate and reasonable use of physical punishment in the upbringing of children. At the same time, as follows from the text of the law, strangers will not be held criminally accountable for the same actions against the child.

Religious groups in Russia protested the amendment.

Decriminalization of a non-aggravated battery

In November 2016 group of Russian MPs, including Mizulina, introduced the amendment (bill # №26265-7) to the article 116 of the Criminal Code, removing the "family member" clause and thus, decriminalizing first-time non-aggravated battery entirely. This bill passed the parliament and was signed into law on February 7, 2017.

Further reading

You can read the extremely well-sourced and insightful summary of events in the report from Nerses Isajanyan: Russian Federation: Decriminalization of Domestic Violence

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